Their Eyes Were Watching God

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The Pear Tree Symbol Analysis

The Pear Tree Symbol Icon
Janie has her first experience of sexual awakening under the blooming pear tree in spring, just before her first kiss with Johnny Taylor. Throughout the novel, the pear tree symbolizes for Janie the feeling she experienced directly while sitting beneath it – the sense of possibility in life for a connection between the self and the natural world, and the feelings of sexual desire and love. Thus when looking at the sexualized imagery of the pear tree blossoms, Janie declares, "So this was a marriage!" Janie's conflation between sexual desire and marriage is an idea that is eventually debunked for Janie by her experiences with Jody, but is reinvigorated when she meets Tea Cake and finds that her marriage to him allows room for both sexual fulfillment and love. It is for this reason that Janie feels she has finally reached the horizon.

The Pear Tree Quotes in Their Eyes Were Watching God

The Their Eyes Were Watching God quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Pear Tree. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Harper Perennial edition of Their Eyes Were Watching God published in 2006.
Chapter 2 Quotes

She was stretched on her back beneath the pear tree soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees, the gold of the sun and the panting breath of the breeze when the inaudible voice of it all came to her. She saw a dust-bearing bee sink into the sanctum of a bloom; the thousand sister-calyxes arch to meet the love embrace and the ecstatic shiver of the tree from root to tiniest branch creaming in every blossom and frothing with delight. So this was a marriage!

Related Characters: Janie Crawford
Related Symbols: The Pear Tree
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

Here, Janie explains to Pheoby that her "conscious life" begins with the pear tree: a young Janie lies under the blooming and buzzing tree for hours at a time, watching the communion of flowers and bees. 

This becomes one of the novel's central images, informing Janie's understanding of a reciprocated romantic love. Neither bee nor flower dominates or hurts the other — they are equals, united in their embrace. Of course, Hurston's language here is as lush and abundant as the tree itself and she zeroes in on the smallest, sexualized details (including "the dust-bearing bee" and "the thousand sister-calyxes"). Even the exclamation mark after "marriage" mirrors the tree's pseudo-sexual climax, its "ecstatic shiver."

Janie witnesses this insemination, this marriage, at a young age and yet cannot find the same beauty in her own relationships with Logan and Jody, neither of whom treats her as an equal. Even Janie's posture — she stretches under the tree — matches the "arch" of the flowers towards the insect. Only Tea Cake truly loves Janie as a bee loves a blossom, stirring up in her a "soul-crushing love."


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Chapter 4 Quotes

Janie pulled back a long time because he did not represent sun-up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon.

Related Characters: Janie Crawford, Jody Starks
Related Symbols: The Horizon, The Pear Tree
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

Janie meets Jody Starks while Logan is away, buying a second mule in Lake City. She is intrigued by his "citified, stylish" manner, and they end up meeting every day and discussing his ambitions. In this section, Janie has not yet decided to elope with him, but harbors certain doubts "because he [does] not represent sun-up and pollen."

Here, Janie has a sort of premonition, a sense that Jody will not provide the love and passion she so desperately desires: he has nothing of the pear tree about him, but only the "far horizon." Yet the horizon is still an important symbol to Janie, and Jody's worldliness and style give her a glimpse of the world beyond her small town. She wants experience and excitement in addition to a perfect love; though Jody can only deliver the former, she still decides to run off with him, abandoning Logan (who offers neither). 

Chapter 11 Quotes

He looked like the love thoughts of women. He could be a bee to a blossom – a pear tree blossom in the spring. He seemed to be crushing scent out of the world with his footsteps. Crushing aromatic herbs with every step he took. Spices hung about him. He was a glance from God.

Related Characters: Tea Cake
Related Symbols: The Pear Tree
Page Number: 106
Explanation and Analysis:

Janie and Tea Cake spend more and more time together. One night they go fishing, and on another he plays her music and combs her hair. She finds this sudden intimacy at once confusing and refreshing. 

Here, Hurston alludes very obviously to the first pear tree passage: Janie concludes that Tea Cake could be a"bee to a blossom," fitting into her original notion of romantic love and marriage. Hurston repeats and then expands upon the word "blossom" in the second sentence, bringing Tea Cake's lushness and excess into the text itself. And she does the same thing in the third and fourth sentences, repeating the word "crushing" and then elaborating on it. All of these repetitions and fragments slow down the plot, making this moment into a sort of dream or fantasy. 

Hurston concludes this passage with the sentence: "He was a glance from God." This allusion, too, is an obvious gesture at the novel's title. Many characters are "Watchers" in Hurston's work — they watch the horizon or God or something else. But how then do we understand a character who is himself not a watcher, but a "glance?"

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The Pear Tree Symbol Timeline in Their Eyes Were Watching God

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Pear Tree appears in Their Eyes Were Watching God. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
...she is sixteen. The day of the kiss, Janie spends the day under a blossoming pear tree in Nanny's yard. Janie is moved by the fertility of the tree, finding its shift... (full context)
Chapter 3
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
...how she yearns for something "sweet" in her marriage, like "when you sit under a pear tree ." (full context)
Chapter 11
Gender Roles and Relations Theme Icon
Voice, Language and Storytelling Theme Icon
Desire, Love, and Independence Theme Icon
Power, Judgment, and Jealousy Theme Icon
...feelings for him, she refers to him as "a bee to a blossom – a pear tree blossom in spring." Yet Janie still attempts to convince herself that she is not interested... (full context)